Jesus Brings Grace To Those Who Reject Him
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Jesus Rejected at Nazareth (Listen)
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers1 in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.
Let us take a moment to consider what is going on here
First this is later in Jesus ministry. Luke puts it here in chapter four seemingly fairly early on in Jesus’ ministry but he does for theological reasons. Mark show us that actually it came later. After Jesus had done a lot of miracles and become fairly famous. This is clear even from the text. They have heard of his many miracles. Jesus is in short a minor celebrity. The people of Nazareth are pretty excited that now he is here in their midst.
Second they themselves acknowledge that his fame is well earned. They are amazed at his teaching. They are astounded at the wisdom and grace of his words. They acknowledge that he understands the scripture to a depth that no one else has ever shown. They see that he teaches that same scripture in a way that captivates and inspires. You’ve probably had many different teachers and pastors in your life. Perhaps you can think of one that was really able to speak to you and explain things in a way that no one else could. Jesus was able to do this to a far greater degree than any you may have meet in your life.
Thirdly and most important what did Jesus bring them?
He came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. That is a reference both to the year of Jubilee but as a symbol of the coming of the Messiah. In other words he was there to tell them that the one thing they had been waiting for and praying for since the time of Moses had finally come. The kingdom of God was here.
And what did that mean to them: He came to “heal the broken hearted, to forgive sins, to give sight to the blind.”
This was wonderful amazing joyful news. Christ came to them to bring them the forgiveness of sins, to bring them kingdom of God, to welcome lead them into heaven.
And yet before Jesus can even finish talking in their hearts they start to reject this wealth of grace that Christ brings, why?
- Because He is Joseph’s son. They knew him. They knew his brothers and sisters. They remembered him when he was child.
What this really boils down to is that they reject Christ and all that He promises them just because he doesn’t appear in the way they want the Messiah to appear. They want lightening from the sky. They want glory and power. They want great miracles and fire. They want the Messiah to appear in the sky with the voice of thunder and awe them with his glory and power.
We talked about this last year. God does not reveal himself wrapped in glory. He comes to us hidden in the normal small things of this life.
Last week in bible class we were talking about baptism. God’s gifts come in simple water
God speak to you though his word and through me. How easily it would be to despise the word which I share with you because you know me. It’s not hard to find problems and faults with me if you want. It’s not hard to convince yourself that you know better. With all my faults and sins and shortcomings it would be easy to look and say what is this? This isn’t God, this is just a man.
As Luther supposedly pointed out, once God spoke through the mouth of a donkey, he certainly can do it again.
God’s gifts come through ordinary things. If we throw away God’s gift just because they are wrapped in water or in people like myself than we are throwing away eternal life and salvation
- Second they reject all the grace and gifts Christ brought them because he wouldn’t do the miracles that they had heard about. In other words he wouldn’t put on a show for them.
In Capernaum and other places there were people in need who came to him in faith to help with their troubles. Even though Jesus was very busy with other things he had mercy on many of those people and helped them out.
That is not the case in Nazareth. Here they are coming to him not in their need and in faith, but instead because they want a show. They want to see the great miracles that he had done other places.
Over and over again when people approach Jesus looking for entertainment he rejects them. He is not a clown to perform at their command.
That should tell us a little bit about our own worship service shouldn’t it. If we come here, or to any church for the purpose of being entertained we aren’t going to find Christ. That isn’t why Christ came. He came to heal the broken hearted. He came to preach good news to the poor. If we come looking for healing and forgiveness then we will find a Christ always willing to help. But if we come looking for entertainment there is no Christ at all.
- Thirdly and most importantly they reject Christ and the gifts that he comes to bring because he makes it clear to them that they are no better than the people of Capernaum, the people of Sidon, the people of Syria, in short the gentiles that they hated and despised so much.
Jesus spent most of his time in Capernaum and the area near there and far side of the lake of Galilee. This was not Israel proper. This was largely Gentile country. There were many Israelites but there were also a lot of Gentiles.
Jesus in our text points to many other examples when God’s grace and gifts were given to Gentiles and not to Israelites. Why? Because they also needed the grace of God and unlike the Jews were willing to listen to Him.
When we think of the account of Elijah and the widow of Sidon, why was there a drought on the land? Because the people of Israel refused to listen to the Word of God and were worshiping Baal. Because they had rejected the Lord and his prophet Elijah, Elijah was sent with the word to someone who would appreciate the gifts of God.
With these words Jesus makes it clear to these people that they are no better than the people of Israel during the time of Ahab and Jezebeel. They are no better than the people of Capernaum, that are largely gentiles and even worse Romans. They are no better than the Samaritans that they hated so much. In fact not only are they no better they are worse, because those people rejoiced to receive the grace and gifts of Christ.
There is no one in this world whose is going to get really angry as quickly as someone who thinks they are right with God who is then confronted by their sin. Go to a brothel and talk about sin and grace, go to a prison and talk to someone there about God’s law. These people are far more likely to listen.
Go to someone who is in church every Sunday, who volunteers their time, who gives 10% or 15% every Sunday, and suggest that maybe this or that thing they do is wrong, that they messed up, that they need to confess some sins. The anger you’ll get in return is often worse than the heat of the fiery furnace. How dare you accuse me of such things.
So it is here too in Nazareth. “We are Israelites how dare you suggest that we are worse than the people of Capernaum, or Sidon or Syria,” says the crowd of Nazareth.
Their anger is fierce and immediate and full.
And yet Jesus’ response is the same mercy and grace which he came to bring them. He allows them to take him even as far as the cliff. Did you notice that? He waits hoping they will wake up, hoping they will recognize what they are throwing away and come to their senses.
He came to bring them mercy and grace and forgiveness. He came to preach the gospel to the poor. He came to seek and save the lost, even such terrible sinners as these.
Yes we aren’t any better. Yes we too are far too quick to get angry when anyone points out our sin. But Jesus came to Nazareth anyway to bring them the grace and mercy of God, and so he comes here also to give the same to us.